We’ve all heard Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s inspiring advice that women should “lean in” and embrace challenges, risks and opportunities in the workplace. While I want to echo the importance of Sandberg’s advice, some of my biggest personal and professional developments have come about as the result of a forceful push. That’s why I’ve made my motto: “Push and be pushed.”
I’m lucky enough to have been pushed toward new and rewarding experiences throughout my life, starting when I was a young student. My mother encouraged me to test into a prestigious high school and ultimately to be the first member of my family to graduate college. Shortly afterward, I joined Mars as an engineer at a production plant in the U.K.
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One of my earliest professional memories was when my first boss asked me about my goals and I said I wanted to have my boss’s job one day. To my surprise, he told me that I should aim higher—that I should look to be his boss in the future. By pushing me to dream bigger, he helped me think beyond the limits I had previously set for myself.
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Sometimes getting “pushed” by others comes in the form of a light nudge, and other times it feels more like a shove. In my experience working at Mars for 25 years in five different departments and four different cities, the uncomfortable “shove” moments are the ones that provide the most learning and growth. Later in my career, when the role of president of Mars Chocolate North America opened up, I wasn’t originally going to pursue it. At the time, I was comfortable leading the financial operations at the organization as CFO. After counsel from my colleagues and fellow leaders, though, I pushed myself to take that role. Today, I can proudly say that this is the best job I’ve ever had, and I’m beyond thrilled that my Mars colleagues encouraged me to pursue it.
“Push and be pushed” involves more than being receptive to “pushes from others”; you also have to do your part and push others. Over my career, I have had the privilege of managing hundreds of talented associates and have always strived to go above and beyond their own expectations. I’ve pushed an experienced engineer to take an unexpected and challenging finance role for his own development (he later became the CFO of our ice cream business), and I’ve encouraged our Mexico CFO to relocate for an assignment in the U.K. to broaden his global expertise (he later became regional CFO for Latin America).
Allowing yourself to “push and be pushed” may lead you into uncomfortable and unchartered territory, but I guarantee it will be worth it in the end.